I followed the #ShutDownAcademia action Wednesday, as many of my colleagues did. The unfortunate truth is that there are very few Black academic physicists. Despite traveling extensively to conferences and working at the KITP, where we have a huge influx of visitors, I have met only a handful in more than 25 years of my academic career. I sincerely hope that changes, and people like me need to do our part to make it possible.
I came across some fascinating discussions of the situation from arguably the most famous physicist, Albert Einstein. I could not track down the original sources, but there are some good online articles here and here. In an address at Lincoln University, a predominantly black university in Pennsylvania, Einstein reported said “There is a separation of colored people from white people in the United States. That separation is not a disease of colored people. It is a disease of white people. I do not intend to be quiet about it.” Einstein’s activism on the subject was not known to me, but is yet another aspect of his life that inspires.
Something that my daughter and I have been doing in the last few weeks (with no causal connection to recent events) has been to try to learn about Africa, is countries, cultures, and geography. We found an engaging series of videos on YouTube called GeographyNow, which posts 10-15 minute summaries of the countries of the world. We’ve been going through African nations one by one, and while this is not the most academic format but it is fun and both of us find it fascinating and have been impressed by the richness and cultural diversity of the continent and its peoples.
This is not the most coherent thread, but I wanted to write something. There is really no way for a privileged person like myself to do this topic justice. I just wanted to show that the injustice of the Black condition in this country is deeply felt, and that I believe it is relevant to us in physics. By improving diversity in the field, we will enrich it and I am sure improve the science.